met my first rat shortly after arrival. I was given a cot with mosquito
netting tied at four corners to the ceiling of the bunker. I hadnít
noticed many mosquitoes and decided the netting was more trouble than it
was worth. I slept with it untucked and off to one side.
was awakened by something taking a stroll up my chest, and there was enough
light to see that it was a rat. I figured my best bet was to stay
still, and maybe I wouldnít get bit. The rat made its way to my neck,
took a right and went down alongside my head, and stuck its little rat
nose in my ear. Finding nothing good to eat, it left.
got up and tucked in my netting.
ceiling of the bunker was covered with parachute material. This kept
the dirt from settling down when the big guns were working. The rats
considered the space between the material and ceiling a sort of ìrat freewayî.
You could see their little feet on the material as they made their way
across the bunker.
rats provided entertainment for us and for the local Montagnard kids.
The kids could be seen taking rats for a walk, using a piece of string
for a leash. Our entertainment was more bloodthirsty, and consisted
of finding ways to kill them.
with rats in a weird sort of way mirrored the ways we had learned to kill
in training: Hand To Hand, Rifle, and Bayonet.
combat would occur when a rat dropped out of the ceiling and onto someoneís
netting. I suppose the rats considered the netting to be some sort
of little ìrat trampolineî. If the cot was occupied and the G.I.
was quick enough, a good backhand would send the rat flying.
a rat required setting up an ambush. There were of course some safety
issues with shooting inside a bunker, but the ever-clever G.I. figured
a way around them. A bullet could be taken apart, the brass jabbed
into a bar of soap, and ìviolaî, a ìsoap plug bulletî that was much safer
for an indoor ambush. Some food would be set out, an unsuspecting
rat would eventually show up, and the G.I. usually won. Ambushing
rats seemed pretty normal at the time. Decades later, however, the
thought of a G.I. sitting in a bunker in the dark waiting to shoot a rat
seems a little strange.
more serious rat haters used the bayonet option. A rat would be spotted
in the ceiling, and bayonet practice would start. If it was a clean kill,
all was good. The material would be cut and the rat removed.
If, however, the rat was just wounded, things could get ugly. The
rat would go off to die somewhere, and the bunker smell (which in the best
of times was not ìspringtime-freshî) was made even worse by the addition
of ìlíodeur de dead ratî
of the more bizarre ways to deal with rats didnít involve traditional combat,
but was more along the lines of ìPhysics Experimentî. This consisted
of dropping a rat down the barrel of one of the big guns just before firing
it. I suppose îdistanceî or ìtime-of-flightî or some other sort of
observation was expected from these experiments. To my knowledge,
no actual values were ever recorded.